LANDS OF THE UNEXPECTED
Memoirs of the Middle East, 1930–1960
By Ezra Young
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In 1930, during the author’s first assignment in Turkey, a wise old Cypriot philosopher said to him, “Just remember that you are working in a region where the unexpected is normal.” In the more than 20 years that followed, this became increasingly evident; the more one stays in that part of the world the less one dares to predict. An American missionary, with 30 years service in various lands of the region once commented, “I can say that I have never been bored, for each morning as the Muezzin calls the faithful to prayer I wonder what new surprise or excitement the day will bring.”
Given the uncertainty, and the unpredictable nature of life and events in that part of the world, this book will not pretend to be a political treatise, lest these thoughts become irrelevant and obsolete. Rather it is intended to be an inside look at personal and human relations as experienced by the writer, his colleagues, his family and friends over two decades.
Significant to the psychology and moods of these lands is a legend about the camel which compensates him for an often burdensome life. The legend goes: “Among our people the ‘tespih’ (string of 33 prayer beads) is told three times by the faithful Muslims to name the 99 names of Allah. But only the camel knows the 100th name of Allah. Hence his proud, and aloof, mien.” In lands where fantasy and fact
often mingle, it is not difficult to believe the legend of the camel.
The following tales of Turkey and the Middle East are like a string of 33 beads (plus one) held together by the author’s memory. They reflect the humor and wisdom, as well as the life-style, aspirations and hopes of the people of these volatile and fascinating countries. If the reader completes these memoirs with a fresh understanding of the people and events in this vitally important part of the world, the writer will be richly rewarded for the years of experience and study which have gone into the writing of The Lands of the Unexpected.
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